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Mozart meets Deadwood: Spaghetti Western Orchestra.

Art Beat

THE CATS, TOO, WILL HAVE THEIR DAY IN THE SUN Moose, horses, dogs . . . now it is the turn of the household feline to be immortalized in sculpture form and displayed on local streets. Whiskers, the Capital Region no-kill cat shelter that is home to approximately 130 cats (I’ve visited, it’s amazing), is inviting artists to submit designs for Whiskers Capital Cats. This is an exhibit planned for summer 2009 in which it is “anticipated” that 100 cat sculptures will be displayed “throughout Albany.” There are two sculpture sizes (33-inches tall and 14-inches tall); “artists are permitted to change the fiberglass form by adding elements or modifying it.” For more info about specs and other arrangements, visit capitalcats.net or call 669-1710.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN SCHENECTADY There are few more evocative film scores than those composed in the 1960s by Ennio Morricone for the Italian (hence, “spaghetti”) westerns of Sergio Leone. Take Once Upon a Time in the West, for example. When I listen to the soundtrack, it takes me immediately back into the movie: the whistling theme for Jason Robards’ bandit Cheyenne; the discordant harmonica that introduces Charles Bronson’s nameless avenger; and the majestic, romantic theme that welcomes (and confirms the ultimate triumph of) Claudia Cardinale’s whore-turned-respectable-landowner Jill.

That’s what the Spaghetti Western Orchestra, who will perform at Proctors on Saturday night, aim for, too.

Five musicians, playing a dizzying array of instruments, attempt to re-create the sound of a 100-piece orchestra as they perform Morricone’s music from A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and other Leone epics. “We make you re-create the movie in your mind,” explained Denis Blais, the group’s director and designer, in a recent telephone interview.

The show is also a big theatrical experience, with its share of flash: “We wanted to bring back the big, live theatrical concert experience. Today, audiences are so spoon-fed with high-tech effects. . . . We’re very low tech.” Blais mentioned, admiringly, Alice Cooper and his guillotine—and laughed when I told him Cooper would be playing Proctors the night after the Spaghetti Western crew.

“There are also Keystone Cops-Buster Keaton moments in what we do,” Blais said, explaining that five guys running around the stage from musical instrument to instrument has a comic side.

There’s something primal about Leone’s movies that Blais loves, the fact that they tell the wrenching, violent stories of building a new world. “The focus [of Leone’s stories] is more on the innocent bystanders and ruthless killers,” Blais said, and what happens when they collide. The big themes—covered-wagon journeys west, the Civil War—are used as background for personal dramas of survival. And Morricone found the musical language to translate Leone’s dramas.

While the movies have since been accepted as great cinematic achievements, Blais notes that “at the time they were slammed for being too cartoon-like.” Which was partly true, and yet totally missed the point.

Blais said that people will ask: “Is it a rock concert? Is it a classical concert?” He suggested that it has elements of both: “Mozart meets Deadwood.”

It lacks the profanity of the latter, however, as the Spaghetti crew put on a family-friendly show.

Spaghetti Western Orchestra will perform Saturday (Oct. 25) at 8 PM at Proctors Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). Tickets are $20-$35. For more info, call 346-6204.

—Shawn Stone

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